Michael Youssef - Counting Stars Will Put You to the Test
Emotionally speaking, this is the toughest in all of the ten messages, even in terms of faith, it is difficult to comprehend. And while I don't deny the difficulty, I don't want you to miss the important part. I don't want you to miss the big picture. I don't want you to miss the big vision here. It is my prayer today that our eyes be elevated to include this incredible faith and trust in God, that our vision will rise and elevate it to see what Abraham saw at the time. In reality what Abraham was going through is what each of us will go through. It is a school of faith. Faith is like a muscle that it does not grow while you're just sitting there eating potato chips and watching television. Faith, like muscle, it grows by exercise.
I want you to turn with me, if you haven't already, to Genesis 22. Look at verse with me because in Genesis 22, Abraham goes through what none of us, none of us, can ever understand or comprehend, not on this side of heaven. This time, God's voice that Abraham was used to hearing, now this time God's voice shatters his peace and his peaceful existence. God's command comes as a sharp knife piercing into his very heart. This time, God's voice and God's request can only be described as devastating. This call presents Abraham with one of the greatest tests, if not the greatest test that God could ever put his friend through.
Verse 2, "Abraham". Here I am. "Take your son Isaac". You notice he mentioned him by name because Abraham could have said, "You know, Eleazar is adopted, what about Ishmael"? He said, "No, no, no, it's Isaac" by name. In order to emphasize the point he said, "Whom you love," has a total affection has now placed on Isaac. "And go to the region of Moriah, sacrifice him there as a burnt offering". To say that these words appear as an extremely cruel words would be an understatement.
"But Lord, wait a minute. Do you know what you're saying? This is the son of promise. Lord, I can offer you a thousand head of rams. Lord, I have a thousand head of cattle, I can offer them as a sacrifice. But not Isaac, please, Lord, not Isaac. Lord, take me. I lived long enough, I will go on the altar. I'll offer for myself as a sacrifice instead of Isaac. Lord, remember the miraculous work that you have done, all of that is gonna go down the drain. Lord, you keep your word and you kept your word with me for over 25 years. Lord, your reputation is gonna be marred in this land. Lord, my testimony is gonna be tarnished".
You know what the amazing thing is, Abraham never said any of this. Probably that's what I would have done, not Abraham. He didn't say any of this. Let me ask you a question in passing, just listen carefully, please. Has any of God's gifts or God's blessings in your life taken God's place? Please think long and hard about that and only answer that yourself. Answer it only to yourself, but don't miss the main issue here. It is not so much that Abraham placed all of his love on Isaac, important as that may be. The Bible makes it clear that this was a test. What is important is that God's blessings of the future salvation is gonna come through Isaac.
Don't miss this. This is a big picture here. For the first time, Abraham is now confronted with a conflict. I mean, this is a huge conflict. It's a conflict between the promises of God and the command of God. How is he gonna resolve this conflict in his mind? How he's gonna resolve this conflict in his life? He will have to resolve it in one of two ways. Is God a liar? Is God an erratic God? Does God not know his own mind? But that's not the God that he grew to know. This is not the God he grew to love. This is not the gracious God that he encountered again and again and again. This is not El Shaddai whom he knew that he will always keep his word and never go back on his promises. This is not an untrustworthy God. This is a trustworthy God in whom he trusted.
And so, Abraham, trusts God, even in the appearance of the impossibility and the most crucial difficulty of his life. Beloved, listen to me very carefully. The Bible has 40 plus writers, but one author, the Holy Spirit. It's like a friend of mine says that when the writers were writing, the Holy Spirit jumped in the ink. The Bible has one author, it's the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus. And so, the Bible reveals to us 2,000 years later what was going on in Abraham's mind. It's in Hebrews chapter 11, verse 17. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only Son, even though he had said to him, it is through Isaac that your offspring will be redeemed".
Abraham reasoned, here's that underline in your Bibles if you have your own Bible. Reason, that's really what's going on in his mind at that time. The Holy Spirit reveals this to us albeit 2,000 years later. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead and practically speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. Now, of course, we know in hindsight and many years later, that this was a mere test. But, of course, he did not know that and because he passed this test, God allowed Abraham to see something that nobody else before or, or even since to be truthful, allowed him to see how God Himself is gonna do what he spared Abraham from doing, and that is offer his one and only Son as a sacrifice to die for us.
You see, that's God's intention all along, is to point all of Isaac's descendants forward to look forward to the day when the Lamb of God becomes our sacrifice, for God, on that same mountain range, would offer his one and only Son for our salvation. When Isaac asked the question, "Father, where is the Lamb? Where is the lamb for the burnt offering"? That was a question that will be answered only by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. That is the purpose of all Old Testament animal sacrifices, they were pointing to the coming Lamb of God, the unblemished lamb of God, the sinless Lamb of God, when he is slain on that cross.
And Abraham's answer to Isaac was a prophetic Word. It was a Word of prophecy about the coming of Jesus 2,000 years from that time. He said, God will provide himself a sacrifice, but Isaac questioned, "Where is the lamb"? Was repeated in the Old Testament again and again. Isaiah 53 asked, "Where is the Lamb"? And the answer is the man of sorrow who will be like a lamb led to the slaughter. Zechariah asked, "Where is the Lamb"? Malachi asked, "Where is the Lamb"? Until the day a man from Galilee came up, showed up where John the Baptist was baptizing at the River Jordan. And there at the River Jordan, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit spoke. He said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I'm well pleased".
John tells us in chapter 1:29 that when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". This is the answer to Isaac's question. For it is this Lamb of God, Jesus, that Abraham looked forward to. It is this Lamb of God Jesus, whom every faithful believer in the Old Testament, looked forward to. It is this Lamb of God, Jesus, who is our shepherd. It is this Lamb of God, Jesus, who alone can wash away our sin, and our guilt, and our shame, by his holy and righteous blood on the cross. It is this Lamb of God, Jesus, who shall come again, and it may be sooner than we think, to judge both the living and the dead. And when Abraham named the place, Yahweh Yare and it's amazing the word "yare" is the same word actually in Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic, which means see.
That's what it means. Yare means see, Jehovah Jireh, we say it. But that's kind of from the Latin, but God will see to it. That's really a literal translation. When you say Jehovah Jireh say God is gonna see to it. God is gonna see to it. Can you say that with me? God is gonna see to it. That's literally what he was saying. God himself will see to it, that he provides a Savior. God himself will provide a way out of this dilemma between his mercy and his justice. God himself will provide the solution to man's predicament. Whatever you might be going through right now, and some of you are going through tough times, whatever you might be facing today, you need to remember that God will provide a way out of your dilemma, that God will see to it, that he will give you a way of escape, that God will provide a balm to your wounds, that God will compensate you for all the years that has been eaten by the locusts.
God will give you his joy again. God will dry up your tears. God was see to it that you are vindicated. Amen belongs here. You see, on Calvary, God saw to it. He saw to it. He saw to it. For it was there on that hill and on that tree, there the love of God, and the justice of God, met. There on that tree, the righteousness of God and the mercy of God kissed each other, as the psalmist said. There the Lamb of God provided a perfect plan for salvation for everyone who will believe in him. I know and you know that for 2,000 years of Christian history, writers, and artists, and poets, and people of all walks of life have tried to explain the love of God and they failed and didn't know how.
And if there's one thing after preaching for 45 years in the public ministry, I am incapable of describing the love of God. I'm incapable of describing it to myself, let alone I can't describe it to others. It's an impossibility. But there's something else about this indomitable faith of Abraham I don't want you to miss. I don't want you to miss it. It's in verse 5. If you read the passage many times and you missed it, go back, underline it, especially one word, I want to point you to it, one word in that verse. Here's what Abraham said to the servants, he said, "Stay here with the donkey, and the boy and I will go up to the mountain to worship, and we..." Can you say that with me? "Will come back".
He didn't say I'm gonna go there and offer Isaac and come back. He said, No, no, no, we're gotta go up, and we're both gonna come back. There's such confidence that God will raise Isaac from the dead. Beloved, listen to me. How many times do we claim that we love the Lord, but only if it doesn't cost us anything? And we love the Lord if the price is right. We love the Lord, but only if we don't have to surrender anything. We love the Lord, but only if we keep all of the blessings to us in our family. We love the Lord, but only if we don't have to give up misplaced affections. "Oh, I love the Lord, I don't want to give the idols in my life up. Oh, I love the Lord, but only if I don't have to give up my wrong relationships. I love the Lord, but I don't want to give up these wrong habits, these sinful habits".
Now, with this brief introduction, I get to my sermon. I kid you not, I have six points. First, Abraham's obedience of faith is characterized by promptness. Can you say it here? Can you say it with me? Promptness. "Abraham". "Here I am, Lord," not once, not twice. "Abraham circumcise the men in your household". He immediately did. "Abraham, let Hagar and Ishmael go". Tore his heart, "Yes, Lord". Then comes the biggest test of obedience of all, of all time. "Abraham, take Isaac whom you love, you love dearly, offer him to me". "Here I am". Prompt obedience. Secondly, Abraham's obedience of faith is characterized by sustainability, was prompt, but also was sustained. His obedience was carried through a long period of time.
To be sure he went through stages, but nonetheless, it was sustained a long period of time. It began when God appeared to him from nowhere at the Ur of Chaldeans, which in modern day Iraq, and told him to leave what is dear and what is near and leave everything behind, and go to a land that he does not know where that God is gonna show him. All the way, 50 plus years later was his greatest test, "Give me your dearest and your nearest". His obedience first was what? Prompt. Secondly, sustained. Thirdly, it was a willing obedience. It was willing. Now beloved, willing obedience is seen so clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane. "Father, if possible, take this cup from me. Yet not my will, but yours".
And Hebrews 10:7 tells us about Jesus's willing obedience. In this way, here's what Jesus said, "Here I am. It is written about me in the scrolls. I have come to do your will, Oh, God". It was prompt obedience. It was sustained obedience. It was willing obedience. And fourthly, it was settled obedience. What do I mean by that? Settled obedience is what is said of Daniel. Daniel purposed in his heart. There is no equivocation, there is no wavering, he purposed in his heart. That is settled obedience, settled obedience said of Jesus in the gospel of Luke, that he set his face toward Jerusalem like a flint. This is the opposite of convenient obedience. This is the opposite of mercurial obedience. It was prompt. It was sustained. It was willing. It was settled. And fifthly, it was contagious obedience.
You say, "How come"? Well, think about this. Think of the millions of believers in the Christian history who have read the story of Abraham and Abraham's obedience, and they cried out to God, "Lord that's how I want my life to be. Lord, that's how I want my relationship with you to be". It is contagious. And finally, it is rewarded obedience. Obedience always will be rewarded and it's not always immediate, but it will be rewarded. If you look at verses 15 all the way to 19 and even little bit further, you see how Abraham abundantly rewarded, not only past promises, counting the stars, and the number of the stars is reiterated, reaffirmed, but he gave a little extra. He said, "Your descendants will be like the sand of the seashore".
The Bible makes it very clear that God is faithful, but also he's gonna reward faithfulness. Listen, I built my whole life on the principle that the Bible said God is no man's debtor. He is not gonna be holding to you. He's not gonna owe you anything. He's not gonna be indebted to you. God will give back, not just what you give him, but he's gonna give it back heaped over, shaken, over abundance of it. Jesus was rewarded for his obedience, not only that on the third day he rose with every ounce of his omnipotence, but also he is now reigning and ruling on the right hand of the Father in heaven.
The world might be falling apart, but he is not. He is now in total control in heaven. He rules over the hearts of his children, but the day is coming, and it's a lot sooner than we may think, that every knee shall bow, and that every tongue is gonna confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. You and I are not only blessed for our obedience, here and now, here and now but one day, one day and again, I think it might be sooner than any of us think. One day, we're gonna hear from the lips of Jesus, "Well done, well done, well done". Say it with me, "Well done". "Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in the joy of your Father". Don't ever lose sight of this. Don't ever lose sight of this. Every time you lose sight of this, you get in the dumps. Every time you lose sight of this, you get into trouble. Don't lose sight of it. Don't lose sight of it.